Did everyone feel that earth-shattering, offense- altering move the Steelers made late Tuesday? In an effort to bolster their horrendous offensive (and it is offensive) line, they sent two low round draft picks to Steelers southwest, otherwise known as the Arizona Cardinals for tackle Levi Brown. I know, control your enthusiasm. Brown was selected fifth overall in the 2007 draft and missed most of last season with a torn triceps muscle. Says a lot that Arizona would basically give him up for a bag of chips and a beer, so forgive me if I don’t see this as a major shakeup. Interesting that the Steelers’ deal followed on the heals of their arch rival Baltimore Ravens making a deal Monday night to acquire former first round pick T Eugene Monroe from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Didn’t know the Steelers were into playing ‘keeping up with the Jones-es’.
With a week to think and ponder and to quote Mike Tomlin “get better”, I thought about what the Steelers needed to do try and fix their ails right now. With one exception, I will try and lay off the blame game for a day.
1. Start being accountable
Right now the only guy who seems to be willing to be blunt and honest is QB Ben Roethlisberger. After losing to the Vikings, Ben said “we are the worst team in football.” If not for the Jacksonville Jaguars, they would be. What’s very troubling is that this team does not seem to hold themselves accountable for being 0-4. All Mike Tomlin feels is that the team “needs to get better” and that will solve all ills. Mike, your team has no running game, no offensive line, an aging defense that hasn’t forced a single turnover and can’t tackle, and yet all you think is that your team needs to “get better”? Wow, talk about clueless. And to hear Ryan Clark talk, you think this was a playoff team. This isn’t. And then Art Rooney comes out today and basically echoes Clark. Does anyone (besides Ben) have any clue? This is the worst Steeler team we have seen since 1968! It’s time for Tomlin to confess he’s not doing a good job, it’s time to hold Dick Lebeau’s defense accountable for their failures. Guys, get real here, you stink. Admit it!
Some may ask what admitting such a thing would accomplish. It’s easy to be honest about others, but not often about ourselves. Pittsburgh needs to admit they have problems. They need to admit their problems won’t go away by magically uttering “get better”. Admitting you have a problem hopefully puts you on a path to fix that problem.
2. Fire GM Kevin Colbert. NOW
The trade for Brown is a puzzling one. First, why would the Cardinals give a former first round pick up so cheap? Well, the honest answer is that Brown hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. He’s made seventy-five starts in his mostly mediocre NFL career. What bothers me about this deal is that Brown is owed nearly eleven million dollars over the next two years. For a team that cries poverty every year, why on earth would they take this contract on? Maybe Arizona is taking part of it, but I doubt it. Year after year, we watch the parade of free agents leave for greener bucks, while the Steelers do nothing to re-sign them. I know Omar Khan is thought to be a salary cap wizard, but this trade for Brown is puzzling for such a cash strapped team. Khan needs to go as well.
Colbert meanwhile, has done an abysmal job of replacing departing stars and starters. His only bona fide home run has been center Maurkice Pouncey, although Pouncey is proving to be a little injury prone (the DeCastro inflicted injury aside). As far as GMs go, Colbert is useless. While I liked their 2013 draft, it’s not enough to save Colbert in my mind. Get rid of him NOW and hire a young GM with some vision and some savy. Think outside normal channels, look how it worked for the Boston Red Sox hiring Theo Epstein. Hire more scouts to mine small schools, the black colleges, the CFL, Arena Football, search far and wide for any player who can help this team. Think outside the box a little!
3. Bench Guys
I don’t care who it is, but nothing puts pro athletes on notice as does benching either them or a teammate. With the acquisition of Levi Brown it looks like Mike Adams will be riding the pine for a while and rightfully so. I’d also bench Ryan Clark, nobody’s play has slipped quicker than his. Bench him and put rookie Shamarko Thomas in there. At 0-4 what do you have to lose?
And I wouldn’t stop there. If Tomlin really wants to make a statement, bench other guys for a game. Bench Woodley, bench Hood(please!) , hell even bench Timmons or Polamalu. It may sound crazy but nothing lights a fire under an athlete than does job (in) security. If these young guys see that even great ones like Polamalu could get benched, it may provide a spark. Give Al Woods, Thomas, Vince Williams, Chris Carter more time, give them starts; bring Alan Baxter off the practice squad and throw him in.
4. Cut someone
If benching won’t work, then the next best thing would be cutting someone. Again, I nominate my favorite two punching bags, DEs Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward. Two more blown picks for Colbert which only enhances his ineptness as assessing talent. Cut one, cut both, who cares? Send Mike Adams packing as well, he’s proven to be another bust is a ever growing line of wasted high draft picks. Let Isaac Redman go as well, let Le’Veon Bell and Johnathan Dwyer have their go. Want to send a message, nothing does it like cutting a bust draft pick like Hood, Heyward or Adams. I mean Arizona just gave away a former top five pick in Brown to them for nothing, why is cutting the thirty second overall pick (Hood) out of the question?
5. Play the damn rookies!
You’re 0-4 why not? Has Markus Wheaton gone into the witness protection program? Wheaton flashed big play potential in the pre-season, yet he has been a non factor thus far. Play him!! As I said play Shamarko Thomas and Vince Williams more as well. Heck, de-activate Cotchery and bring Justin Brown off the practice squad and give him a taste. Play Derek Moye more, we all know Emmanuel Sanders is gone after this season, play Moye and Wheaton more.
6 Be a little dirty if you must
Thanks to the now departed James Harrison, the Steelers had a reputation for playing borderline dirty. Alright ‘borderline’ is being nice, but at least it gave the Steelers an edge. Yes I know it may result in penalties and fines, but let teams know that even if they beat the Steelers on the scoreboard, they’re going to get the crud beaten out of them physically. That may go for the offensive line as well: be maulers, be nasty. Get up in a facemask, bite someone, find your inner Conrad Dobler!
7. Find an identity on offense
I know Todd Haley was brought in to bring better balance to the offense. His short passing game was thought to be an asset to Roethlisberger, to keep him more upright and healthy. It hasn’t worked. If anything, they have seriously regressed on offense to the point where I wonder if Haley makes it through the season (he probably will). I know the O-line changed their blocking scheme as well, but it ain’t working. I say, go four or five wide and just go back to being a medium to deep passing team. Stretch the field, get TE Heath Miller working that seam in the defense. Things will open up for Bell and Dywer on the ground if they open things up, spread the defense out. Maybe even use Felix Jones in the wildcat. It’s clear that they are not a running football team. What strengths the offense has is in their QB and receivers. Play to that strength. What Todd Haley needs to be is adapt his scheme to his personnel, not the other way around. Look at the stats guys, the offense has regressed under Haley. If things keep on the way they are, he and Ben are going to come to a very ugly confrontation soon. Time for Haley to wake up and change things around on offense.
I know many of you will disagree or scoff at my solutions. What do you think fans? What moves can the Steelers make to change things around? I’d love to hear some good ideas.